As half a million Twitter followers already know, the inside of retired baseball legend (and notorious steroid abuser) Jose Canseco’s head is a strange, restless and fascinating place. Alongside random snippets of sporting and celebrity life, Canseco uses his Twitter feed to wage a pitched battle between his ego and its many enemies. “I complete you,” he repeatedly reminds his fans, while snarling viciously at the many haters out there. Overall, you get the feeling Canseco sees himself as one of the last noble warriors defending some kind of vanishing chivalrous order, though it can sometimes be unclear whether there’s anyone but Jose Canseco and his rarefied Canseco-ness in said order.
Occasionally, @JoseCanseco swerves wildly into the realm of current events, and when this happens, his followers often respond with chuckling voyeurism. Such was the case when our hero decided over a couple of weeks in late March and early April to mark the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic with a rambling multi-tweet lecture on the ravages of global warming. The comedian Denis Leary gathered a handful of these tweets into a single link, introducing it as "Professor Canseco on Global Warming."
Silly as it is, though, @JoseCanseco’s riff on the climate crisis wasn’t even in the ballpark of the dumbest thing said on the subject by a prominent American that week. And so it’s worth a closer look, in the context of the broader conversation on the subject, because it reveals quite a lot about what’s considered Serious by Very Serious People in American politics and the mainstream media today.
To be sure, there’s a certain guileless goofy wonder to Canseco’s rambling discourse. As he sort of cleared his throat ahead of his first Twitter lecture on global warming, he tossed out a random gem: “Driving to los angeles right now on my Cadillac cts going 140mph wonder how much better it will do with rocket fuel.”
A few hours later, presumably having arrived at his destination, he starts in on the planet’s sad state:
Will discuss global warming tommorow. U clowns can't comprehend global warning I ask u study tonight and tommorow pop quiz
The next day, @JoseCanseco’s take came in a dense volley of tweets:
clowns if you dont stop your mass consumption we will have no polar bears soon need to recycle or else no more bears
how do we stop global warming
reduce reuse recycle morons class in session i complete you of to practice for my playboy celebrity golf tournament
1 more stop global warming tip .turn your home heat all off at nite .saves $ an energy and lowers your body temp so u will live 20% longer
A couple of weeks passed, while we clowns worked through the math of it all, and then the Titanic anniversary inspired Canseco to return to the subject:
Titanic 100 years wOw. Global warming couldve saved titanic. Sad to say
Because we don't recycle and consume like crazy icicles are non existent. Titanic wouldve still existed today
You clowns it's very simple. With global warning the weather is hotter so the icebergs would be melted and titanic saved.
100 years ago people actually cared about planet and respected nature. Now we can care less and consume energy like it's free
Now, does all this create an easy target for the haters? Of course. Canseco is crazy loose with facts, indifferent to spelling and grammar, and given to cartoonish mid-rant non sequiturs (the first tweet after his second lecture on global warming was “Titanic reminds me of the days I had two yachts in Miami but no icicles.”)
On the other hand – listen up, you haters – Canseco’s actually in the ballpark of the truth here. In his rambling scattershot way, he’s linking hyper-consumption, cheap energy, the melting of Arctic sea ice and the fate of polar bears in a warming world. Canseco’s diction is gonzo, his fine details delusional, his shipwreck analogy strained, his own ego never less than Titanic in size – this is all true. But his premise is actually not far from accurate, particularly if you put it next to the sorts of things that prominent politicians of national stature say all the time without attracting the kind of offhanded point-and-laugh dismissal that the @JoseCanseco feed attracts.
Just days before Canseco’s first Twitter outburst on global warming, for example, Rick Santorum – then treated by much of the mainstream media as a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination – stood in front of a crowd at what purported to be a serious energy conference (the Gulf Coast Energy Summit) and said, “The dangers of carbon dioxide? Tell that to a plant, how dangerous carbon dioxide is.”
On another occasion on the campaign trail, Santorum quoted from the Book of Genesis before denouncing climate change as “an absolute travesty of scientific research that was motivated by those who, in my opinion, saw this as an opportunity to create a panic and a crisis for government to be able to step in and even more greatly control your life.”
And the GOP’s eventual nominee? Well, Mitt Romney, not to be upstaged, has said, “I exhale carbon dioxide. I don’t want those guys following me around with a meter to see if I’m breathing too hard.” He’s also suggested he doesn’t know what’s causing climate change, as if it were unknowable – indeed as if he himself hadn’t expressed certainty about the cause, human-generated greenhouse gas emissions, in a book he wrote and published just a year before – before asserting that it wasn’t worth spending “trillions and trillions” dealing with.
It would be too easy, at this point, to quote the GOP’s climate-denier-in-chief, Sen. James Inhofe – who has made a career of confusing weather with climate - so I’ll leave it with Mitt and Rick.
So to be clear: There’s no factual basis for the views on climate change espoused by the GOP’s two leading contenders for the presidency. Mitt’s trillions are made-up numbers, and the joke about his exhalations needing to be metered is on his own ignorant self – elementary school students have a firmer grasp of the science involved. Santorum’s views on the matter are medieval, pre-Enlightenment; he’d have been at the front of the crowd to denounce Galileo for claiming the Earth revolves around the sun.
These are Serious People, their words quoted without much in the way of qualification in major newspapers, their every action and opinion followed by the cable news, their guiding philosophies solicited and discussed by the Ultra-Serious Sunday morning talk shows.
These are Serious People, yes, and they are on the record demonstrating that they know substantially less about climate change, its origins and impacts, than the laughingstock Twitter feed of Jose Canseco. It’s one of those funny things about institutions like major political parties and the self-serious national media outlets – just because they take themselves so seriously doesn’t mean they aren’t a joke. Especially, it seems, when the subject is climate.
To trade favorite Canseco-isms 140 characters at a time, follow me on Twitter: @theturner.